Roots of the Traveler (Racer Records)

By Paul Moffett

Someone asked me if this band's name was some sort of takeoff on Metallica. Can't say one way or the other, although there might well be inspiration derived, or, as the fine arts types say, ‘after.'

Acoustica is definitely ‘after' several acts, including Crosby, Stills, Nash, et al., plus Michael Hedges and David Wilcox. and that's just what they admit to in their press from San Francisco indie label Racer Records. Still, this isn't necessarily a bad thing - there are, after all, very, very few really original ‘folk rock' a.k.a. Americana trios. Three guys singing tight harmonies just can't dodge the CS&N bullet, unless they're doing bluegrass, gospel or barbershop styles.

So, if it comes down to doing those harmonies well - and these Oxford, Ohio boys do that quite well - then the next, most important question is, how's the songwriting?

In a word, poetical. A couple of tunes on this twelve-song CD have a bit of hookiness in the refrain: "Postmark, Birmingham" and "Swinging Door," with this sharp line "She's got looks that could kill / and a gun that will / and a Louisville slugger behind the bar." Don't look for a lot more content in that song, however, as the lyrics never gets much beyond that, unless the listener puts in a fair amount of study and did well in English 203, when the teacher insisted that you sift out the real meanings in all those poems.

Every effort is made to cast this work as serious, from the sepia photographs of the band to the somewhat strained bit of whimsical blurbery on the back of the insert that utilizes all the titles of the songs - boldfaced, of course. The postmodernist deconstruction and recombination of words to create titles (Venomosity, Telempathy) seems to come from some New Yorker magazine staff writer trying to stay ahead of hiser readers - but not too far ahead.

It might well be that Roots of the Traveller will do well on the NPR circuit: it all sounds really heavy, you know, deep. Dig it, roots, right? And it does fit right in with your sophomore English class.

Take note, however, that even Wilcox didn't hit the bigger time until he wrote that little ditty about pulling out his pistol and blowing someone away.

Acoustica hasn't quite yet put their hands on their weapon.